The Consumer Surplus Of The Internet

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Tyler Cowen has a couple of posts up questioning the idea that the Internet results in some giant unmeasured consumer surplus.

The main thing I have to add to this is from what I know of blog traffic statistics. In short Traffic is highest during the 12 hours between 9 a.m. and 9 p.m. Eastern Time that reflect when people are at work. Traffic tends to peak during the time when people are at the office in all four American time zones. Traffic is much higher on weekdays than on weekends. Traffic is much lower on holiday Mondays than on regular Mondays. Traffic is much lower during the Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday before Thanksgiving than on normal Mondays, Tuesdays, and Wednesdays. Traffic is unusually low during the whole week between Christmas and New Year’s Day.

This is a long-winded way of saying that people read things on the Internet primarily when they’re supposed to be working. One interpretation of that is that the consumer surplus is pretty small. People don’t want to spend their leisure time reading my blog. But there are other interpretation. Maybe “ability to surf the web at work” is enormously valuable to people, but people also spend enough time at work that this leaves them basically sated.